Thinking Outside of the Room
Theatre is known for the "tangible" feeling of a process - of experiencing art created through collaboration in a collective. And right now, that doesn't seem possible.
The world is on its head in the face of COVID-19. As it should be - this is uncharted territory for us all, all at once. As a freelancing artist, there's an ironic comfort in that all humanity is uncertain of what actually lies ahead, rather than it being only those of us who bounce from contract to contract. We all look to the same question: now what?
Lately, I've been looking largely at what we as creatives can do, instead of what's not an option right now. Innovation has always been key in what makes art engaging - there's just a new (and very large) stipulation at hand.
Audio dramas and podcast musicals are a new frontier that we can explore right now. PigPen Theatre Company has this beautiful belief of "keeping something just out of sight", making the audience imagine and therefore create alongside of a show. When we lean into our limitations, sometimes we can actually make something more engaging for the audience. How can we enhance our skills with what we present through audio/soundscape to allow people to create alongside of our own storytelling?
Livestreams and YouTube premiers are allowing us to share experiences with others real time. Netflix has added a "chat" option for us to watch movies and shows alongside of our favorite people who may be cities or states away. Classes and work places are convening through video conferences and email chains. So, we can still experience a kind of "togetherness". How do we create "live experiences" with others in this way? Read throughs, brainstorming sessions, workshops, can still exist. The raw level many of us are operating from right now may make these circumstances more tense, but also challenge us to communicate more effectively and push us to create something that effectively displays the emotional rollercoaster of right now.
These different types of media were beginning to become more prevalent in live art, and now they're the medium we have available - so let's hone and shape those skills now.
On the flipside -how do we tell these stories? Taking the present circumstances and shaping new ideas - what is seen on a screen versus what we really want to say? What goes unsaid when we "log off" and are forced to look at the empty spaces we sit in? Documenting where we are, where we were, and where we might be 6 months, 1 year, 5 years from now? What show exists from a video chatroom where people log on and off? What about the stories of those still called into work right now - doctors, nurses, cleaners, restaurant employees? How do we evaluate the word "essential"?
This is a "history-book" moment we are in the middle of right now. People will undoubtable make art about it someday - and we are challenged to make art in the face of it all; now. Our struggles, ideas, and knowledges are still worth sharing - and so we must collaborate through the uncomfortable.